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ALPHA DOG

Casting The Film
Once the project began, Cassavetes brought in casting directors Nancy Green- Keyes and Matthew Barry, who began identifying the actors whose talents were the most appropriate for these roles. Fortunately, the process went quickly. The scripts went out and, save scheduling issues, there wasn't a single actor who didn't quickly sign on to be a part of the production.

Cassavetes explains his casting process: "I don't audition people, because I don't believe in it as a practice. I think that certain actors are great auditioners and kind of average actors, and certain actors are average auditioners but really great actors. What I'm looking for when I try to find someone for a part is someone who's interested in their character, and someone that can communicate how they work, and we can share a kind of commonality in the way we work.

"I think there are only two types of actors,” he continues. "Those who can and those who can't. And if you can, we'll get there. I have made some mistakes before, and I'm sure that other people have made some mistakes with me. My style doesn't necessarily work with everybody, however. Actually, there's an adage around me—you want to be one of the first actors to meet me because I can't stand refusing anybody. But I was also extremely lucky in casting Alpha Dog, because nearly almost all of the first people I saw for the parts were the perfect people to play them.”

The role of egomaniacal ringleader Johnny Truelove went to young up-andcoming actor Emile Hirsch, who appeared in the films Lords of Dogtown, The Girl Next Door, The Emperor's Club and The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys. "Emile read the script and loved it,” recalls Cassavetes. "He said he had to do the part and after meeting him, I thought he would be a great Johnny Truelove.”

"My first reaction to the script was how great the drama was,” remembers Hirsch. "The script made my heart pound. It took me into the world of these kids and made me ask myself what I would do in that situation. It's a powerful script that sucks you into a scary, dark abyss and forces you to find your way out.”

Hirsch knew that tackling the role with such depth would be a great exercise as an actor. "My character has a really wild arc,” he explains. "In the beginning, Johnny is extremely cocky and is in full control of his world. By the end, he has lost everything he has. The transition makes him lose his spine and turns him into a little boy, so there's a lot of humility in the role.”

For the role of Sonny Truelove, the enigmatic father to Johnny and businessman operating on the outskirts of the law, the filmmakers had the opportunity to work with veteran actor Bruce Willis.

Cassavetes had hoped that Willis would be available and interested in portraying Sonny, and he had forwarded a copy of the script to the actor's agent. "We weren't even sure we had it in the budget, but it was still something we really hoped for.” Willis signed on and proved to be a fiercely dedicated presence, on-set and off.

The writer/director remembers, "During preproduction, Bruce ended up doing as much research as practically anybody in the film, for a part that he could have easily walked through. He understood his part very well. He was the champion of this film.” Sidney Kimmel offers, "To have such an amazing cast with some of the brightest talent coming up, along with powerhouse veterans like Bruce Willis and Sharon Stone, is a testament to the power of this story.”

For Willis, the attraction was in the mix of filmmaker, subject and cast. He says, "The character of Sonny is one that really drew me in. He has developed this amazing philosophy about life and family and totally believes in his own truth. Actually, because of what he was, what he passed down to his son, he contributed to what ended up happening. When<

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